Pubdate: Mon, 24 Sep 2012
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Summit Daily News
Author: David Sirota


If you heard a drug dealer denigrate his competitor's product as 
unsafe, would you trust his criticism? Last week, thanks to 
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, that became the central political 
question in the fight over whether to continue America's destructive 
war on marijuana.

The frontline in that war is Colorado, where the federal government 
has interfered with its system of state-regulated medical marijuana 
businesses, despite President Obama's promise to refrain from doing 
so. Countering that crackdown is a 2012 ballot initiative that would 
make Colorado the first state to fully legalize marijuana and 
regulate it like alcohol.

Enter Hickenlooper. In the same month a poll showed majority support 
for the marijuana legalization initiative, the governor blasted the 
measure for allegedly "detract(ing) from efforts to make Colorado the 
healthiest state" and for "send(ing) the wrong message to kids."

What makes his announcement so stunning, and what evokes the 
drug-dealer comparison, is the governor's career as a purveyor of the 
drug commonly known as alcohol. That's right, as the founder of the 
state's first brewpub, Hickenlooper was instrumental in flooding the 
state with his beery drug of choice.

So it all comes down to trust. Will voters trust that their 
beer-mogul-turned-governor is actually worried about health and 
children? Let's hope not, because when you put Hickenlooper's brewing 
career next to his marijuana fearmongering, he's essentially saying 
that while pot is unhealthy and bad for kids, alcohol is not -- and 
that assertion is not supported by facts.

Whereas the Centers for Disease Control report that alcohol use is 
the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death, marijuana use has 
never been shown to kill a single person. Whereas the National 
Institute on Alcohol Abuse reports that more than a third of violent 
crimes are connected to alcohol use, no research has ever shown a 
correlation between violence and marijuana use. And whereas alcohol 
is a known carcinogen, pot has never been proven to contribute to cancer.

The standard retort to these facts is to insist that two wrongs do 
not make a right, and to then claim that marijuana prohibition at 
least keeps one of those wrongs off the market. But those 
suppositions are negated by two realities:

1. Under our existing prohibition, marijuana is already "almost 
universally available," according to the federal government.

2. Even if you do believe all mind-altering drugs are "wrong," it 
makes no sense health-wise to only let users choose a dangerous 
substance (alcohol) rather than a safer alternative (pot).

But, then, that latter item spotlights a powerful economic force 
shaping the politics of drugs. Despite the health consequences of a 
market that legally preferences alcohol over marijuana, the alcohol 
industry that has an obvious business interest in maintaining the status quo.

This is almost certainly why the industry bankrolled the fight 
against more tolerant marijuana policies in California and probably 
why the nation's first self-described brewer-governor opposes the 
measure in Colorado. Alcohol peddlers and their political allies are 
simply trying to preserve a government-mandated monopoly -- health, 
safety and facts be damned.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom